Les Moules Belle Epoque

Whenever visiting France, mussels were always on my “must eat before I go home” list.   We spent a winter one summer in St. Malo, Brittany and the strong, cold winds from the sea sharpened our appetites for the famous seafood platters, moules marinieres and cold white wine.

It was in St. Malo that a young German aristocrat mesmerized an entire restaurant by eating his mussels with a knife and fork.  Beautifully!  After he had finished his meal, the Brittany born and raised waitress kindly demonstrated the “correct” way to eat mussels.

First, choose a good looking, well shaped, medium sized mussel.   Remove the meat, a fork is okay, and eat it.   Now, using your empty mussel shell as a utensil, pinch the meat from the remaining mussels and consume with gusto!  If the hinge of your utensil wears out and breaks while you are consuming your “mountain” of mussels, just choose another one.  Be sure to talk, laugh and take large, meaningful sips of your wine or beer while eating, otherwise what’s the point?

Moules frites (mussels with fries) are served in restaurants all over France(July-November) and Belgium(September – April) during the season.  The best places have tables set up outside and, if the weather is particularly hot, serve a good quality carafe of Rose wine.  If you, unfortunately, find yourself in a tourist restaurant, decline the bib.

For today, I found a 2 kilos barquette or basket of mussels at Carrefour.  These were pre-cleaned, scraped and ready to use.  I like that.

Mussels Belle Epoque

2 kilos mussels, cleaned

1 leek, thinly sliced

1/2 fennel bulb, chopped

4 shallots, thinly sliced

1 celery stalk, chopped

1/2 tsp pepper

3 or 4 saffron threads

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

2 large tomatoes, chopped

2 cups Belgian beer

Saute the leek, fennel, celery, shallots, pepper and saffron in the butter until the vegetables begin to soften.  Add the mussels, cover and cook on high flame for 5 minutes.   Stir the mussels and add the basil, beer and tomatoes, then cover and cook for another 3 minutes. Ladle the mussels into bowls with the cooking liquid.

Beverage suggestion:   An Aligote from Burgundy or Belgian beer

Mussel on Foodista

About cookinginsens

An American living in Burgundy, France
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13 Responses to Les Moules Belle Epoque

  1. Katherine says:

    Oh this looks just lovely. I love mussels and moules frites and all that. I can almost smell the saffron and tomatoes… And I love your instructions for eating the mussels! Wonderful writing. Mussels turn up only rarely in the non-kosher supermarket by me, and always frozen and pre-cooked. But next time I get my hands on some good, fresh mussels (hopefully home in New York this summer!) I will be making them this way. Thanks.

    • Thank you Katherine. I like the marinieres also which is the traditional French recipe but the Belle Epoque has more vegetables and leaves you with a substantial soup that’s baguette dip-able 🙂

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  3. Mussels are one of my favorite dishes. Add beer and fries, even better. I love the sauce you use, simple but bursting with flavor.

    • Thanks Rufus. The French don’t make any beer worth speaking about but if you come to Europe go to Belgium, the birth place of moules frites and have them with an excellent Belgian beer.

  4. I have long been searching for a beer-based moules recipe and it looks as if I’ve found one! Congratulations on a beautiful site, mouthwatering photos, and very interesting writing! I’ll be back for more!

  5. Kay Ecker says:

    Oh, these look wonderful, you must have enjoyed them tremendously:o) You are so lucky that you got to live in St Malo for a few months! I loved it there when I had a chance to visit several years back. The oysters were the most amazing, the best that I’d ever had in my life!!

    • Hi Kay. Yes, that area including Dinan and Dinard is famous for it’s seafood. It’s also a fun area in the summer. Dinan has a medieval festival that was great and we also attended an outdoor concert with the Wailers of Bob Marley fame. And of course there’s St. Michel.

  6. Kay Ecker says:

    You are making me want to go back to St. Malo area! It’s been over 10 years since I’ve been there. It was my first trip to France. You are so lucky that you live in France!! I love it over there. My husband and I were in Paris, Giverny, Bordeaux & Biarritz in May last year and had the most wonderful trip and we always eat the most amazing food!! I envy you;o)

    • I do feel lucky Kay to have found this nice small, quiet town with great neighbors. The French really care about food and its quality. Perfect place for an amateur cook.

  7. This is a great blog! Everything looks and sounds so fantastic! I can’t wait to try the mussels… they’re definitely one of my favourite seafood dishes. My wife and I are taking our two young children to paris in August and we’re going to visit Hotel du Nord, at your recommendation! Thanks for the recipes!

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